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I've seen three different peer reviewers criticize parts of scientific manuscripts as being "too simple", with little elaboration as to what changes are desired or what it means to be "too simple". For example, a reviewer told me that a method section of one of my papers "was too simple and not clear".

To my ear, "too simple" sounds like a mistake, but is it a feature of some dialect, such as Indian English? Or is it perhaps an established custom among non-native speakers, like beginning a question with "How to"? And what does "too simple" mean, anyway? Maybe "simplistic" is meant, but my best guess based on context is something more like "too short" or "insufficiently detailed".

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    Too simple is idiomatic in native English. (And simplistic does mean insufficiently detailed.) May 12, 2020 at 15:51
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    I have a hard time believing that "too simple" would sound unidiomatic to any native speaker (it's the same syntax as saying "it's too hot outside", which I would imagine that most learners would be familiar with too). But is that the real issue? Shouldn't you ask a question on Academia instead on either what the reviewers want from your paper (as this question has) or how to ask the reviewers for better feedback?
    – Laurel
    May 12, 2020 at 16:02
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    @EdwinAshworth You are looking at the wrong word. Merriam-Webster defines simplistic as "excessively simple or simplified." Excessively simple is synonymous with too simple. May 12, 2020 at 16:20
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    @Jason Bassford Of course, in say These questions are too simple/simplistic for undergraduates. But not in say Your essay is too simple. Dictionaries must be handled with due care. They don't explain everything. May 12, 2020 at 16:32
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    @EdwinAshworth In the descriptive and everyday use of language, I understand your essay is too simple to mean exactly the same thing as your essay is simplistic. Surely you can't be arguing that you don't understand what the reviewers were trying to communicate in their criticism—or even that it's not phrasing that would be used in most regular contexts? I would go further and argue (if I really wanted to debate the point) that too simple is more idiomatic than simplistic in this very context. (Even though I equate their meaning.) May 12, 2020 at 16:40

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I might be incorrect, but I think it means (depending on the context)that it needs more to it; more detail. But that is used when your professor/teacher annotates your essay and might tell you to make revisions.

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  • Most likely what the reviewers actually meant to say was that the manuscript was simplistic. However, most people don't make such a fine distinction between those words, and too simple has the same effective meaning. May 12, 2020 at 15:48
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    @JasonBassford Ok thanks for the positive feedback! May 12, 2020 at 15:50
  • Please visit the Help Center to see the sort of questions and answers expected on ELU. In particular, answers should be well researched and contain linked, attributed supporting references. Answers lacking such come over as (and may be) no more than one person's opinions. May 12, 2020 at 15:55

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